Finding that perfect apartment, getting approved, preparing to move in, and envisioning your new life there is always exciting. What may not be so thrilling is the legal stuff—in particular, signing the lease. Leases are often long and boring and easy enough to just sign away without much thought. Trusting and enthusiastic new tenants may tend to assume that the lease is basic and straightforward, and simply sign it without examining it.
But leases are legal and binding agreements. Deviating from a lease could mean legal and/or financial trouble down the road. Also, there are aspects of a lease that are well worth reading, and possibly even negotiating with the landlord, before signing. Here, we cover the basics of a lease plus some specifics that might apply to you, helping to explain why it’s important to always read your lease before you sign it.
A lease is a legal and binding agreement between a landlord and a renter. Included in the lease is the name of the landlord, the name(s) of the tenant(s), the address of the residence, the length of stay, the financial agreements, and any information about who manages the rental property.
A Word About Tenants
Unless each roommate has his or her own separate lease, it’s very important to have everyone who will live and pay rent listed on the lease. This way, if one of the roommates up and leaves in the middle of the term, you’re not the one stuck with the bill.
A Word on Length of Stay
Some leases are month-to-month, some are six months, some are 12 months, and some are two years. And then there are all kinds of variations, as well as all kinds of considerations. For example, what happens if a lease is terminated early? On month-to-month leases, how soon should either party (tenant or landlord) notify the other of ending the lease? If you have to leave early, are you able to sublet or find another tenant? And what about when the term of the lease is up? Some leases then revert to a month-to-month agreement, others renew automatically unless notice is given by a certain date, some simply end. You’ll want to know this important information so you’ll know what to do when the end of the lease draws near.
As for Financial Arrangements
The obvious financial agreements include the monthly rent and security deposit. But then there are the add-ons: does the apartment allow your beloved Mr. Whiskers? If so, there is often a pet fee. When is a monthly payment considered late, and what is the late fee? What kind of repairs does the landlord cover versus the tenant? Are any utilities covered in the rent? Are there fees for ending the lease agreement early? You’ll want to know about these considerations should any or all of them apply to you, and they should be covered in the lease.
Aside from the basics and the financial aspects, there are many miscellaneous considerations that could apply, and those should all be covered in the lease. For example, what if you want to paint or make repairs or home improvements. Are you allowed to do so? Do your choices need approval? And who pays for these upgrades or repairs? What about provisions—is there a swimming pool, a laundry room, security systems, etc. available for use? What about parking—do you have a spot? Where is it? Are there noise ordinances? Is there pest control?
These are just some of the questions your lease may cover, and you’ll want to know the answer to all of them. All it takes is reading your lease before you sign. If you have questions or want to change or negotiate something, you’ll have the opportunity to do so before you sign, and remember, your real estate agent is an excellent resource in guiding you through this. So, factor in some time for examining the lease, and not only will your apartment hunt, find, and move-in be exciting, you’ll also know exactly what you’re getting into. And there’s definitely satisfaction to be found in that.